Dempster keeps going strong for Cubs


Dempster keeps going strong for Cubs

Friday, Sept. 17, 2010
10:24 PM
By Patrick Mooney

MIAMI If Carlos Zambrano does retire once his contract expires and assuming the team does not ask him to waive his no-trade clause he will have spent almost half his life in the Cubs organization.

Signed at the age of 16, Zambrano will be only 31 at the end of the 2012 season and his 91.5 million deal. Clearly Zambrano is unique just as his agent Barry Praver apparently tells him.

Mike Quade hadnt heard about Zambranos retirement thoughts late Wednesday night, which he also expressed 15 months earlier. The manager turned to a media-relations staffer Friday afternoon for clarification: Just Z being Z?

Really? Maybe hell take me with him, Quade said. Jesus, lets both go to Venezuela and spend the rest of our lives in Caracas.

Its difficult to see where the Cubs will be in two years.

Ryan Dempster should be nearing the end of his four-year, 52 million contract. And there will be curiosity about Zambranos vesting 19.25 million player option for 2013, which kicks in if: he finishes first or second in the 2011 Cy Young vote; or if he places in the top four of the 2012 Cy Young vote and is healthy when that seasons complete.

If Dempster and Zambrano remain healthy and motivated and if some of the young pitchers hyped by the front office develop quick enough maybe the rebuilding process doesnt have to be that long.

Dempster spent parts of seven seasons in the Florida Marlins organization, but he will be remembered for his time with the Cubs. After Fridays 2-0 victory at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, he has now reached 30-plus starts and at least 200 innings for the third consecutive season.

Its a goal of mine every year, Dempster said of the 200-inning mark. It says that youre staying healthy and youre giving your team a chance to win.

But Im not done yet. I still got a few more starts to go. I want to go out there and finish strong and not settle on that number and keep going.

The Cubs (66-81) are hoping for a carryover effect into 2011 with their young players like Starlin Castro, who committed his 26th error on Friday but later made a spectacular play to end the game. After Carlos Marmol walked two Marlins, the rookie shortstop laid out near the left-field line for a diving catch that secured the win.

I just wanted to finish up on a good note, Castro said through an interpreter.

Quade is aware of individual milestones, and will try to make sure that Castro (.309 average) gets enough plate appearances to appear on the National League leader board. Its unlikely Dempster (14-10, 3.50) will be able to tie his career high of 17 wins. With the Cubs looking at a possible six-man rotation, he will probably receive two more starts.

He can sit back and feel like he did one heck of a job this year, Quade said. Hes not the kind of guy that is going to say something. Thats the other thing I love about him.

As the Cubs lean on more and more pitchers who probably thought theyd spend more time at Triple-A Iowa this season, they will be counting on Dempster to set the tone for the entire staff. Theyd love 400 more innings out of his right arm.

Dempster will be 35 at the end of his 14 million player option for 2012. He has family considerations, and seems like he would be a natural fit for television, but isnt thinking about the end of his career.

Until they tell me to take my uniform off, Dempster said, Ill play as long as I can play. I enjoy doing it, so (thats) the furthest thing from my mind.

Patrick Mooney is's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Kyle Hendricks outduels Clayton Kershaw and delivers legendary performance that puts Cubs in World Series

Kyle Hendricks outduels Clayton Kershaw and delivers legendary performance that puts Cubs in World Series

John Hendricks sent a text message to his son at 11:24 a.m. on Saturday: “Good luck tonight!! Remember, great mechanics and preparation will prevail. Just let it go!!” It ended with three emoji: a smiley face with sunglasses, the thumbs-up sign and a flexed biceps.

The Cubs have bonded fathers and sons for generations, and Hendricks immediately understood what it meant for his boy when the Cubs traded Ryan Dempster to the Texas Rangers minutes before the deadline on July 31, 2012, telling Kyle: “You win in this city, you will be a legend. There is no doubt about it. This is the greatest sports town in the United States.”

This is the intoxicating lure of the Cubs. It didn’t matter that Kyle had been an eighth-round pick out of Dartmouth College, and hadn’t yet finished his first full season in professional baseball, and would be joining an organization enduring a 101-loss season, the third of five straight fifth-place finishes.

Kyle’s low-key personality will never get him confused with an ’85 Bear, but he delivered a legendary performance in Game 6, outpitching Clayton Kershaw at the end of this National League Championship Series and leading the Cubs to the World Series for the first time in 71 years.

Five outs away from the pennant, a raucous crowd of 42,386 at Wrigley Field actually booed star manager Joe Maddon when he walked out to the mound to take the ball from Kyle and bring in closer Aroldis Chapman. Kyle, the silent assassin, did briefly raise his hand to acknowledge the standing ovation before descending the dugout steps. 

After a 5-0 win, Kyle stood in roughly the same spot with Nike goggles on his head and finally looked a little rattled, his body shivering and teeth chattering in the cold, his Cubs gear soaked from the champagne-and-beer celebration.

“It’s always been an uphill climb for me, honestly,” Kyle said. “But that really has nothing to do with getting guys out. My focus from Day 1 – even when I was young, high school, college, all the way up until now – all it’s been is trying to make good pitches. 

“And as we moved up, you just saw that good pitches get good hitters out.” 

At a time when the game is obsessed with velocity and showing off for the radar gun, Kyle knows how to pitch, putting the ball where he wants when he wants, avoiding the hot zones that lead to trouble, mixing his changeups, fastballs and curveball in an unpredictable way that takes advantage of the team’s intricate scouting system and keeps hitters completely off-balance.

“Kyle didn’t even give them any air or any hope,” general manager Jed Hoyer said.

Amid the celebration, scouting/player-development chief Jason McLeod spotted Kyle’s dad and yelled at John: “You f------ called it!” John – who once worked in the Angels ticket office and as a golf pro in Southern California – had moved to Chicago two years ago to work for his good friend’s limo company and watch his son pitch at Wrigley Field. John had told McLeod that Kyle would one day help the Cubs win a championship.

“That was one of the best pitching performances I’ve ever seen,” McLeod said. “Ever.”

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The media framed Kyle as The Other Pitcher, even though he won the ERA title this season, with all the pregame buzz surrounding Kershaw, the three-time Cy Young Award winner and 2014 NL MVP. Except Kershaw gave up five runs and got knocked out after five innings, while Kyle only gave up two singles to the 23 batters he faced, finishing with six strikeouts against zero walks and looking like he had even more left in the tank at 88 pitches.

“It was incredible,” Ben Zobrist said. “That was the easiest postseason game we’ve had yet and it was the clincher to go to the World Series. 

“He’s just so good, so mature for his age. He just has a knack to put the ball where he needs to. He’s smart and he’s clutch. He deserves to win the Cy Young this year.”

Where Kershaw’s presence loomed over the entire playoffs, Kyle has always been underestimated, coming into this season as a fourth or fifth starter with something to prove, and even he didn’t see all this coming. But big-game pitchers can come in all shapes and sizes and don’t have to throw 97 mph. 

“He wants the ball,” John said. “Every big game – I don’t care if it was Little League or wherever – he wants the ball. Plain and simple, (he’ll) get the job done.”

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